X, a subsidiary of Alphabet (Google’s parent company), has signed a deal with an Indian state to offer internet connectivity which describes as ” fiber optic cable, but without the cable.” The company hopes that this free space optical communications (FSOC) technology will be able to set the foundations for high-bandwidth internet in southeast India.
Andhra Pradesh is co-home to Hyderabad, which is one of India’s most influential tech cities. The state offers the residents some of the cheapest broadband access in the world. However, even if India’s internet connectivity numbers have grown substantially through the years, there are still many who don’t have regular, high-speed access. This is especially true in rural populations.
Andhra Pradesh will lose Hyderabad in 2024 because of the creation of a new Indian state, which will cause lowering of its overall connectivity. The state wants to help 12 million households and thousand of government organizations and businesses to get broadband by 2019.
X is working with AP State FiberNet, a telecom company that is owned by the Andhra Pradesh government. X will be building two thousand FSOC links, which will use beams of light to deliver fast and reliable connectivity over long distances. “And because there’s no cable, this means there’s none of the time, cost, and hassle involved in digging trenches or stringing cable along poles,” says Baris Erkman, FSOC lead at X according to a Medium post. “FSOC boxes can simply be placed kilometers apart on roofs or towers, with the signal beamed directly between the boxes to easily traverse common obstacles like rivers, roads and railways.” Indian employees will be working with X to find the best possible locations for FSOC implementation.
Alphabet has developed this technology while they were working on Project Loon, which is a mission to spread internet access through balloons. In the beginning, FSOC technology was being used to allow the balloons to communicate with each other. After being able to successfully transfer a copy of the 1985 comedy Real Genius over 100 kilometers between balloons by using FSOC lasers, X thought if this technology could be applied more terrestrially.